Sunday, May 31, 2009
If there’s anything closer to a mini-vacation to Hades than a MOVE, then I don’t know what it is.
(Of course I’m kidding. We’ve learned that there are many, many things worse. Some things are even worse than death.)
Let’s just say that it’s one of the worst elective tortures there is. But then I haven’t had a facelift or gotten adult braces. (Yet.) I have, however, lived through a kitchen remodeling.
Anyway, the day finally came when a family of our size could no longer pretend to be camping out in California in a tiny (but ridiculously expensive, by Georgia standards) 1-bedroom, 1-bath apartment. With Katherine having an increasing number of medical appointments at UCLA, and a decreasing number of therapy days in Pomona per week, there were more frequent occasions when 4 or 5 of us would be crawling all over each other in our little “home-away-from-home.” The bedroom was so small that it was hard for two people to stand up in it at the same time...especially with a baby bed crammed in. And there are obstacles involved in sleeping (trying to sleep) in the same room as a 19-month-old. Hard to let him just cry himself back to sleep when he’s two feet away from your bed, staring at you with stricken, streaming, big, brown eyes...calling your name in a pitiful voice.
Plus, we wanted to make an even greater contribution to Southern California’s faltering economy. So we took the plunge, bit the bullet, and tightened the belt in order to move on up in the world... to a two-bedroom in the same building. Actually, we moved almost directly up, to the floor above.
It might as well have been China.
At first, it was kind of fun. My son-in-law Jay is as efficient as I am inefficient. He found a cart somewhere in the building and, with my youngest daughter’s help, carted up a good deal of the furniture and larger items in no time flat. My middle daughter also happened to be moving the same weekend, so she loaned us two brawny men to help with the bed and sofa. Then everyone else went back to work and therapy. I thought I’d finish up in the next day or so, no prob. Management had graciously given me a week in which to complete the transition.
By the third day of “finishing up the move” alone, I was ready to jump off the balcony on the fifth floor.
I’d started out in an organized manner, filling up the maintenance man’s cart with nicely packed dishes and such. I hummed happy hymns as I pushed the heavy cart around tight corners and down long halls to the elevator, went up a floor, and did it again. I took the time to arrange items in their new home upstairs, a jigsaw-puzzle type of endeavor because of a reduction in kitchen storage space. (There’s always a trade-off.) I even hung a couple of pictures on the wall and threw the throw pillows around to make things homey right off the bat.
At the end, I was emptying bathroom drawers into grocery bags, throwing them on the cart with toilet plungers, old cocktail sauce, and piles of clothes, and careening down the halls knocking chunks out of the walls. Neighbors stared at me as I did lap after lap of the Death March, ThermaCare patch stuck on my neck, and wild, greasy hair piled on top of my head like Cyndi Lauper on a Bad Hair Day. Instead of praise music, I alternated humming the monkey dirge from The Wizard of Oz and The Volga Boatman’s Song.
It’s incredible what an amazing accumulation of clutter occurred in less than a year. The junk had multiplied like mold. Every cabinet, drawer, and closet was crammed full of fresh nightmares to be dealt with. The inner child of Depression-Era parents battled the modern woman with tree-hugger sensibilities, while the voice of Reason argued against both of them. (Should I cart this crusty condiment upstairs? It’s been moved from Malibu to Jay’s apartment to ours. Should I grant it space one more time? It’s still half full, the voice of the parents intones. I should take the time to empty it out and wash the bottle and take it to the recycling center, the tree-hugger piously suggests. Just trash it, you’re in a hurry, the voice of practicality yells in frustration.)
Getting to the bottom of the mound in the corner of the cramped closet was like an archeological dig. Oh, here are the puppets that were used in a 2-minute puppet show at James’ first birthday party after most of the guests had already left. A Victoria’s Secret bag with a bra that didn’t fit last May, receipt and all. Gifts for nurses never delivered. Gadgets loaned to us to make life more convenient.
And, everywhere, PAPERS. “Too many paypuhs,” as we say in our family, quoting our kindergartner who suddenly refused to go to school one day. (“But you LOVE school,” we coaxed as she clung to the doorframe. She sobbed even harder. “Not any more. Now there’s TOO MANY PAYPUHS!!!”) We all sympathize. It’s a family problem. Medical information, sweet cards from well-wishers, take-out menus from walking-distance restaurants, old receipts, bills, bills, and bills. How can I throw any of this stuff out??? I need to go through it first! (Yes, and when will that day come, Kim?)
CD’s never listened to, books never read, clothes with the tags still on....all ended up being hauled.
Then I had to put my big girl pants on and deal with the gory details...getting things like gas, electric, water, cable , and internet switched over. Endless minutes listening to Muzak on speaker phone, pushing button after button after button....only to finally reach a human being whose English you can’t understand. Visits from an international assembly of men-in-a-big-hurry-to-get-to-the-next-job. (Wait, why do I have to have another remote control? We didn’t need it downstairs! Did I just sign up for something new? How much is this gonna cost???)
Speaking of downstairs...with the mess gone, I noticed all the things that needed fixing if we wanted our security deposit back. So I went nuts patching up nail holes, painting, cleaning like a madwoman. I realized that I’d become completely unhinged when I tried to restore the hair bleach spots on the carpet with Rit dye and a paintbrush minutes before we had to finish evacuating. Definitely over the edge. By this point, my husband had arrived from Georgia, so at least he made me laugh about it. We turned in our old keys and went out for a beer to celebrate.
But back upstairs, everything seemed lost, broken, and out of control. We soon discovered stuff that needs fixing in the new apartment. Our youngest child dumped all the contents of her dorm room in on us before heading to Pomona; our middle child sent us the overflow from her old apartment. I couldn’t find anything because of the lack of sorting at the end. Unrelated items were dumped in bags together. (Face wash with toilet bowl cleaner.) Then, I suddenly realized I’d lost my wedding ring and my other favorite ring. I had a flashback to a time during the move when there was an opportunity for someone to help them go missing. I was convinced I’d never see them again. Within 4 days, I had mentally let them go.
By the end of the week, stress had escalated to the Danger Zone. I finally got my computer back, just to discover that something new is wrong with it. Several other unpleasant situations arose. The last straw was when I tried to email myself a blog I’d tried to write on various borrowed computers, only to find that the last (almost finished) version had been lost.
I drug myself back out to Pomona for nanny duty feeling completely defeated, frustrated, and comatose-tired.
My eternally optimistic (Thank God!!!) child Katherine didn’t understand why I wasn’t my usual jolly self. We got in a snit. (No, we’re not perfect. We still fight.)
Feeling like a victim, I went to the kitchen and started washing the first of an endless stream of dishes. (No dishwasher in the rental house.) I stared out the window at the fire station across the street, fighting back tears of self-pity. I decided it was time to pray.
“What am I supposed to learn from this?”
This is the gist of what came to me:
Life is like one of those human conveyor belt things in the Atlanta airport. There’s really no such thing as standing still. Even with your feet firmly planted on what you assume to be terra firma, you are constantly moving towards another destination.
Sometimes it’s the wrong destination. Not the one I’ve chosen for you. During those times, I may ask you to pack up your little red wagon and move. It may feel like running up the down escalator with a sleeper sofa on your back....competing in the New York marathon while toting a queen-size bed.
And sometimes you’re the one that wants to move. Remember, you were just complaining about the desert. There’s only one way out. It is not an easy way. The path is narrow.
A move is painful, messy, inconvenient, and exhausting. There is chaos and confusion. Things always get broken and misplaced. It’s unsettling and uncomfortable. Letting go of the familiar is frightening.
It may mean losing things you love...leaving even very precious things behind.
But it will be worth it in the end.
I will help you. I’ll even tell you what to pack.
And when you just can’t make the trip one more time, I’ll carry you and your little red wagon, too.
My reverie was interrupted by loud laughter exploding from the den. I heard my middle child whoop, my husband teasing James. The little rental house across from the fire station suddenly felt like home.
Our family’s love is a moveable feast.
“One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai, and his grandson Lot and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there...
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others...All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed...” (Gen. 11:31-12:4, nlt)
(p.s. since writing this, both the rings and the blog have been recovered. God is so good.)
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Friday, May 8, 2009
All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you.
Your words of encouragement have given me renewed focus and “fresh fire.” I feel humbled and honored. Your comments brought out some very hard, healthy, refreshing, needed tears…followed by a sense of peace and purpose.
I appreciate everyone who took the time to write…but especially those for whom it meant abandoning their comfort zones. I just love it when this blog becomes a forum for the exchanging of ideas, rather than an on-going monologue. I get sick and tired of myself. I love to hear your stories, too. They bless us all in many ways.
Thank you so much for your input on the blog entries. I thought everybody would probably pick the same few. It was interesting to see how many different ones struck chords with people…which must bring me back to the conclusion that these musings were not written by my hand alone. (Further evidence that God does indeed use his ‘cracked pots’, as Patsy Clairmont says, not just his gorgeous porcelain vases!) It is amazing to hear accounts of how God has used my faulty human words “for His greater purpose in all of our lives,” as “masterdesigned” put it. It comforts Katherine to know that her devastating situation has been used for good and growth in the lives of others.
Early on, a close friend (who is more spiritually mature than I am) tried to help me understand the phenomenon of this thing. She explained, “This is what happens when a natural ability is ignited by the Holy Spirit.” I hope my quoting that statement will not lead to confusion. My point is that I know myself pretty well, and I know that this wouldn’t have happened without a great deal of supernatural help. I don’t believe my words alone would have had the impact your comments indicate. I thank God that he has somehow broken through, in spite of my weaknesses. But I do believe that every single member of the family is called to be his eyes, his lips, his hands. Even me.
I feel that I’ve come to know some very compassionate “kindred spirits” through this vehicle. I am grateful for that. This crazy planet can feel like hostile territory sometimes. You have helped to restore my shaken faith in mankind.
Last, I thank those of you who acknowledged the difficulties in keeping any kind of consistent posting schedule. Technical difficulties aren’t the only challenge. Sometimes it seems like all the forces of hell are trying to prevent me from writing.* But I will when I can.
One day at a time…
I love you!
*For instance, as I was typing those very words, the apartment fire alarm went off. Being California, it sounds kind of like a Banshee woman in extended labor. It makes dogs go insane, and one older lady in the complex has mentioned a lawsuit having to do with hearing loss. In this case, it just woke James up, about 15 minutes after I put him down. Oh well, I was almost finished.
…except for the P.S.: If you haven’t had a chance, the polls are still open on the blog survey. Just follow instructions on previous blog.
Oh, and since I’m probably going to have to return this laptop to its owner this afternoon :(, I'm going to go ahead and post something I wrote a few days ago in the aftermath of Katherine’s 13-hour facial re-animation surgery.
Just a sec...
Just ahead, I see a little yellow flower of hope, peeping out from beneath a desert rock.
he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.
Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.” (Isaiah 51:3)